The New York Times published an embarrassing look at what went on behind the scenes during the long, long months of “nuclear negotiations” with Iran. Apparently, it involved a good deal of Iran shouting at the hapless U.S. team and declaring its demands non-negotiable, while Team Obama threw in one towel after another.
One by one, the roadblocks to a nuclear accord between Iran and the United States had been painstakingly cleared. But as the negotiations went into their third week in the neoclassical Coburg Palace hotel this month, a major dispute lingered over whether a ban on Iran’s ability to purchase conventional weapons and missile technology would remain in place.
The American delegation, led by Secretary of State John Kerry, insisted on extending the ban. But Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister and his country’s chief negotiator, was opposed. Backing him were the Russians and Chinese, equal parties in the talks, who saw a lucrative market in selling arms to Tehran.
A compromise was struck that fully satisfied neither side: a five-year ban on the sale of conventional weapons and an eight-year ban on ballistic missiles.
The Iranians are still slapping Obama around because they are emboldened, not because they are unsatisfied. They got everything they wanted — there is not a single red line drawn by Obama over the years they did not cross — and now they have more leverage than ever, because they know Obama’s humiliation from letting the deal die would be worse than ever, so they are still announcing highly creative interpretations of key points in the bargain.
We are also still discovering details about this alleged mutual capitulation, too. For example, we just learned American nuclear inspectors are banned from Iran under the deal. We have to help them provide security for their nuclear operations, but we can’t inspect them.
Right after telling its liberal readership that fairy tale, the Times dishes a bit more about what was really going on:
Privately, Mr. Kerry told his team that any lifting of the ban was bound to inflame many in Congress, where fears of empowering Iran would mix with presidential politics. But shortly before midnight on Monday he called President Obama, and together they agreed that it was not worth losing what they saw as the best chance to roll back Iran’s nuclear program simply because there was a risk that sometime in the future Iran would be able to acquire far less dangerous weapons.
Over the 17 long days here in Vienna, the standoffs, trade-offs, shouts and confrontations — some real, some staged for negotiating advantage — sometimes obscured the fact that the two countries were negotiating with entirely different agendas.
As Mr. Obama made clear again Wednesday, the alternative he saw to the deal was a steady slide toward another war — perhaps, aides thought, in just a year or two as Iran’s nuclear abilities accelerated. Throughout the talks, he had one goal: to diminish the prospect that Iran could develop an atomic bomb — or could race for one before the United States and its allies could react — and buy time to try to restructure the relationship.
For the president, everything else — Iran’s support for terrorism, its imprisonment of dissidents and even some Americans, its meddling in Iraq and Syria, its arms trade — was secondary.
None of that is news to anyone, least of all the Iranians. They understood all along that their bargaining position was superior, because Obama needed a deal at any cost — as his critics have said all along, he would take a bad deal over no deal, especially as he got deeper into the process, and it became more obvious that both Obama’s ego and political needs made backing away from the table unthinkable. Obama and Kerry doubled down with every losing hand, until the Iranians cleaned them out.
The NYT is essentially saying that Obama’s top priority was collecting some good press and personal accolades for a deal, and dumping the Iran problem into someone else’s lap while he gets through his lame-duck years.
Late in the article, it is mentioned that Obama grew embarrassed about how obvious his thirst for a deal had become, and tried telling his aides, “I don’t need this.” The aides guessed that he meant Supreme Court wins on ObamaCare and gay marriage had given him enough political cover to make delaying the Iran deal feasible.
One way to appreciate how badly America lost in this lousy deal is to look at how many side issues it does include – every last one of them a win for Iran. “Imprisonment of dissidents and even some Americans” does not directly relate to nuclear weapons… but neither does ICBM technology, and Iran won concessions there.
Obama’s apologists are spinning this debacle by claiming the only alternative was a huge, bloody war, beginning immediately. Secretary of State Kerry actually wound up sobbing about how he had managed to avert another Vietnam. Meanwhile, Iran is boasting about defeating “unfair” sanctions that never should have been leveled against it, forcing the Great Satan to acknowledge its Allah-given right to atomic power, and rather openly stating it is still unafraid of fighting a war against what the Ayatollah describes as the nexus of “global arrogance” in America.
There is some interesting talk in the New York Times piece about how President Hassan Rouhani and his chief negotiator, Mohammad Javad Zarif — his throat evidently a bit hoarse from all that yelling he did at Secretary of State John Kerry — were concerned about losing an internal power struggle against “hardliners” (whom the Times naturally takes the opportunity to describe as “conservatives”) if he gave too much away to the Americans. The Times claims those hard-liners did not want a deal at all, since “many were making a fortune from the sanctions because they controlled Iran’s black markets.”
Instead of the “hardliners,” President Obama will be handing giant bags of money to Iran’s terrorist apparatus, the Revolutionary Guards, headed up by Qassem Suleimani, whose hands are dripping with American blood.
The Times said it took a while for the American and Iranian negotiating teams to realize what mattered most to each other: “For the Americans, that meant designing offers that kept the shell of Iran’s nuclear program in place while seeking to gut its interior. For the Iranians, it meant ridding themselves of sanctions in ways they could describe to their own people as forcing the United States to deal with Iran as an equal, respected sovereign power.”
Well, the Iranians sure got rid of their sanctions and picked up vast international prestige… and we most certainly did not “gut the interior” of Iran’s nuclear program. They will be at zero-breakout in less than a decade, even assuming they don’t cheat, which is an awfully big assumption.
Later in the article, it is mentioned that the U.S. military “said it could live with a breakout time of a year” because “that was plenty of time to launch a strike to destroy Iran’s production facilities,” but it was feared that the “optics” of letting the mullahs spin thousands of uranium centrifuges were embarrassing.
Here’s where the shouting came in:
At one point last week the simmering tension between the two negotiators boiled over when Mr. Zarif felt his American counterpart was pressing too hard. “Never threaten an Iranian!” he shouted. At the other end of the table, Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, who has had his share of disputes with Mr. Kerry, tried to break the tension. “Or a Russian!” he said, as the room broke out in nervous laughter.
But during a break on one particularly discouraging March day in Lausanne, Switzerland, where negotiations were held before adjourning to Vienna, Mr. Zarif struck a different tone as he invoked the names of the key figures on two sides, including Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and the top energy officials of the United States and Iran, Ernest J. Moniz and Ali Akbar Salehi.
“We are not going to have another time in history when there is an Obama and a Biden and a Kerry and a Moniz again,” he said, according to notes of the conversation. “And there may be no Rouhani, Zarif and Salehi.”
What a heartwarming scene – Iranians and Russians roaring with laughter about how they’re not going to sit still for any threats from the likes of Kerry and Obama. Unfortunately, every other bad actor in the world is also looking at Barack Obama as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.